No, I don’t know what it means. but John Dalmas (John Robert Jones, 1926-2017) did. He knew so many things, tucked inside that great, wonderful brain of his.
Over the last 30-odd years, I teased out a few, but John always found a way to surprise me. I knew he had an extensive education, but we were 20 years along before I know that he was more properly DOCTOR Jones, with a PhD in Ecological studies. To me, he was always John, the man who could light up a room just by looking at it.
I first met him when I was 16 years old. He was volunteering at registration for a local gaming convention, and once I figured out I figured out who he was it was too late to go and tell him what his book THE REGIMENT meant to my barely formed brain.
But the next day, I brought it with me, and had all the words in the world ready to share with him as he signed it. I’d grown up with authors and artists, but John was the first one I ever found for myself, and that his book had fundamentally changed my worldview was a big plus.
Mind you, all my words deserted me once we started talking, but I did get to sit next to him for an hour or so and just talk science fiction while we checked people in. That I was missing out on cool stuff behind me was inconsequential–The most important place in the world for me was sitting next to john and listening to him speak.
And that has never changed.
I didn’t see John at the next year’s convention, or the year after that. But when the next book in that series came out, you’d better beleive I bought it. And the next one, and as many as I could find in bookstores. John published 29 books in his lifetime, and I have 27 of them signed. I sent him copies of mine when they were published, and I’d like to think he enjoyed them. (He never said, and at the time he was having problems holding physical books.)
But what I do know is one time I told him the first line of one I’d written, and he had but one word of commentary:
I convinced john to do readings at local bookstores. I always brought people with me to his convention readings, and left his books around my hotel room for people to discover.
I dedicated my second book in part to him, and my next one will probably be his and his alone.
20 years ago, we were at a convention in Portland, Oregon. We were having breakfast, and after a while John caught my attention and pulled me to his side.
“You know, we’re getting really close, so there’s something I need you to know.”
“Sure, John, what is it?”
“When the pain gets too bad, I’m going to step out in front of a bus, and I need you to be okay with that.”
Me being me at the time, I was likely either still drunk, or preparing to be so again. And I was also still a know-nothing kid, so my next words were both from the heart, and ill-informed
“Don’t say that, John. You’re going to outlive all of us!”
“Oh, I sure hope not!”
Almost exactly 6 years ago, I confessed to him that I finally understood what he was saying, and that I had indeed come to a place of understanding.
And those words are the only ones I think that matter right now.
Hey John, It’s Scott James Magner, aka “the Bhagwan.” I just read your
posted newsletter, and it reminds me that I’ve been meaning to write
to you for several months now. Absentmindedness is a condition
affecting a lot of us, I guess.
Part of my message was curiosity about how you’re adjusting to
assisted living, and you’ve ably answered that one. It sounds like
you’re in a pretty good place right now, and it makes me glad to hear
it. I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together at RadCon.
I got a little melancholy on Saturday night, had a bit too much of the
bottle and decided to sleep it off rather than continue carousing.
Not a lot of people know this, but my 40th birthday was at the end of
April. I don’t hold a lot of stock in birthdays–for me it’s just
another day on a calendar. I care much more about anniversaries,
events and associations. And for me, 16 was far more important than
40. It’s hard to believe it’s been 24 years since I first met you, but
when I think back on that span I feel truly blessed. I can clearly
recall stepping into the lobby of a small gaming convention in Spokane
and realizing exactly who the white haired gentleman sitting at the
registration tables was. I especially remember the next day, when you
gladly accepted my thrice-read copy of The Regiment for a signature,
then asked me questions about what I’d enjoyed about it over the
Moving forward 8 years (and a few months, not everything happens in
springtime), I remember you telling me about the future, and how you
preferred to meet the end on your own terms. I tried to laugh it off,
but you wouldn’t let me, and right then and there I resolved to truly
listen to people and what they had to say. The 90’s weren’t the best
decade for me in a lot of ways, but seeing you every few months was a
welcome and dependable routine.
I refuse to think of myself as middle-aged. I have always planned to
live a long time, but long ago accepted the fact that I might not. My
son turns 18 next month (another thing not a lot of people know), one
more anniversary worth celebrating. I never want to experience a world
without him in it, but his dreams don’t always have me around. I
almost didn’t make it through the winter before he was born, and every
day since that I’ve tried to make as good as I can.
So here in my 40th year, I finally understand why I write. Why we
write. It’s not the money, though that does come in handy at times.
It’s not really the notoriety: I know from experience how quickly that
fades. It’s about having an idea, sharing it, and watching it come
back to you in the face of someone who took the time to listen. It’s
about passing something on, and about letting things go. Wherever my
career takes me, whatever jobs I do or stories I tell, my life would
be incomplete had I not taken the time to thank you today for the best
birthday present ever.
Be well, my friend. We’ll meet again.
I miss you, John. It’s been 14 hours since you left us, and right now it feels like the wound will never heal. But I know that it will, because you told me it would, long before I knew how to be a real human.
Ha det så bra!